TV Review: Sherwood

One of the shows of the year. James Graham’s Sherwood is magisterial, full of stonkingly good acting from the likes of Lesley Manville, David Morrissey and Claire Rushbrook

“That’s how some people deal with trauma, Ian”

James Graham’s gifts as a writer are no secret but there’s something truly special in how he is constantly able to surprise with just how damn good he is, project after project. Sherwood is the latest evidence (here’s my thoughts on the first episode) as he spins televisual gold from real-life drama – in this case, two murders that happened in the Nottinghamshire mining village where he grew up in the 1980s.

It is much more than a simple police procedural, of course it is. The killings take place in a working class community already shattered by the miners’ strike of 1984-85 and the behaviour of the police at the time, and in which lingering suspicions and fractured families still abide. So when former union activist, Gary Jackson is shockingly murdered, raw feelings are exposed once again as the police return.  

David Morrissey’s DCS Ian St Clair is the personification of that return, tasked with the case even though it is in his boyhood home village. And as befits such excellent writing, a top-tier cast is employed to bring it to such wonderful, pained life. Adeel Akhtar and Joanne Froggatt, Clare Holman and Lorraine Ashbourne, Nadia Albina and Maimuna Memon, Lindsay Duncan in a scorching single scene cameo.

Best of all though is Lesley Manville and Claire Rushbrook as estranged sisters Julie and Cathy. Torn apart by circumstance and both swallowed up in worlds of grief, the achingly poignant scene through the wall is surely one of the best things that anyone will see on a TV screen this year. Akhtar’s tragedy as the hapless Andy is also superb; and the final pulsing mystery that drives the final episodes is genuinely thrilling. One of the shows of the year.

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